Microsoft Names New Zune Chief

Just two days after it launched its redesigned Zune music player, Microsoft has named a new head for the Zune unit.

Microsoft veteran Rick Thompson has been named Zune vice-president, and will report to J Allard, the company's design chief for its entertainment and devices division. Allard managed the Zune division prior to Thompson's promotion.

The change was announced via an internal e-mail from Entertainment and Division president Robbie Bach on Thursday. Thompson is realistic about the Zune's prospects: he admits the device has far to go before it can really challenge the iPod and other entrenched devices in the market.

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Prior to Zune, Thompson was vice-president of Microsoft's hardware business, a position he held for the past 11 years. He joined the company in 1987 as a product manager for Microsoft's mouse business. Thompson also had a brief stint as a product manager at Internet start-up Go2Net from 2000 to 2002.

One possible concern about Thompson heading the Zune business may be the fact that he has been in Microsoft for so long. Some may see his length of time at Microsoft as a negative, as he may be too entrenched in the culture of the company to understand the changing dynamics of the industry.

Another issue could simply be his age. Being so far from the target demographic of the Zune, Thompson may not be able to fully understand the market, and what sells and what does not.

Thompson seems to deflect this criticism in an interview with BusinessWeek on the promotion. "The vision and cool will continue to come from J [Allard]," he told the magazine. "No one would ever confuse me with being cool."

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